U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration asking it to do more work with Phoenix-area communities concerned about aircraft noise on eastbound routes into Sky Harbor airport, especially those in Scottsdale, Rio Verde and Fountain Hills.
The letter comes a week after the FAA held three workshops in Phoenix about flight noise, as required by the settlement of a lawsuit with the city over changes to the westbound flight path in 2014. The changes affected several historic neighborhoods in Phoenix.
After losing the lawsuit, the FAA was ordered to revert the paths back to their pre-2014 routes. The FAA also was ordered to hold workshops to gather community feedback and consider it when determining routes.
Sinema asks FAA to do more
In her letter, Sinema said she is concerned the FAA is not engaging sufficiently with everyone affected by the flight paths, especially those along the eastbound routes and their local political representatives.
“I urge the FAA to establish and continue dialogue with elected leaders representing communities affected by eastbound flight procedures and to continue working on finding alternatives to lessen the noise impacts on the residents under the eastbound flight paths,” Sinema wrote.
FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor confirmed to the Arizona Republic that the agency had received Sinema’s letter and said it would respond to her in an appropriate time frame.
FAA maps residents’ noise comments
The FAA held three public workshops April 22-24 around the Valley to solicit feedback on current routes and prospective concepts for flight paths. The agency said 289 people attended the events, at which the agency presented findings from its first set of workshops in 2018.
The agency received 493 responses from community members during its 2018 public comment period. Many of those came from people in the Scottsdale area, so the FAA held its April 23 workshop in north Phoenix closer to the area in question.
Reached via phone on Friday, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said that since the flight-path change in 2014, the city has struggled to get the FAA to respond to community concerns about noise. That’s why the city asked the Arizona congressional delegation for help.
Lane said the 2014 Sky Harbor changes also affect noise abatement strategies at Scottsdale Airport. Because Sky Harbor flights operate above the smaller airport, Lane believes that compresses the airspace for smaller aircraft to operate there.
He was pleased with the response from the FAA in the latest set of workshops.
“They at least acknowledged and were reflective on our concerns,” said Lane, who described the April meetings as cordial and collaborative.
The FAA showed maps comparing the 2018 comments to the eastern flow of flights in and out of Sky Harbor. It also presented concepts for easing some of the noise while making traffic into Sky Harbor more efficient. The agency is collecting public comments on these issues until May 23.
Lane said the city’s experts are examining those concepts, and his first reaction is initially positive.
Sky Harbor isn’t the only source of noise
Aircraft noise isn’t limited to Sky Harbor Airport. A spokesperson for the FAA says the Phoenix area has seen a significant increase in aviation in general, especially at the Deer Valley and Scottsdale airports.
The FAA presented a map showing an area in Scottsdale where it received numerous comments. The purple and blue lines on the map indicate flights into and out of Sky Harbor. Flights using smaller local airports are indicated with pink lines.
FAA statistics show that the Scottsdale Airport had 133,515 takeoffs and landings in 2010. In 2018, that figure was 166,191. Deer Valley Airport showed a similar increase. In 2010, the airport had 368,747 total takeoffs and landings of all aircraft. By 2018, that figure was 415,166.
In comparison, Sky Harbor had 434,252 takeoffs and landings in 2018. That was down from 449,351 in 2010. The decrease was because Sky Harbor has had less “air taxi” traffic (planes with fewer than 60 seats).
The FAA’s 30-day public comment period ends May 23. You can find the information presented during the April workshops and a comment form online. Go to www.faa.gov/nextgen/nextgen_near_you/community_involvement/phx/.
You can also mail comments to:
Phoenix Step Two
Federal Aviation Administration
Operations Support Group
2200 S. 216th St.
Des Moines, WA 98198